Today we are joined by Gavin Spencer of Apparity.
Apparity is a fully integrated enterprise class application designed to securely control and automate all the key events that occur in the life-cycle of any mission critical end user developed application – such as spreadsheets, databases, scripts, and robots.
Here’s Gavin’s story:
Who are you and what’s your background?
My journey into the world of FinTech has probably been a little different than many founders of today’s start ups. I spent close to 20 years working for software companies selling, designing and implementing global enterprise financial accounting and reporting solutions. So I have a few more grey hairs that most! Those grey hairs, however also betray a tenured understanding and depth of knowledge around how highly regulated companies in the banking and insurance industries manage their most critical and sensitive content within their accounting and financial reporting processes. This experience, combined with a realization that current, legacy technology solutions could not adequately address the regulatory changes demanded by legislation post 2008 meltdown, gave birth to Apparity. Over the next few years, working at the direction of co-founder Subash Kalbarga the company developed and brought to market a true enterprise class solution that at its core delivered the ability to combine business process automation with a financial and accounting governance and control solution across all end user computing applications.
What is your job title and what are your general responsibilities?
My official title is Chief Operating Officer but aside from the day to day administrative role that comes with being the COO my real focus continues to be growing the company and maturing the product. I stay very close to all our sales cycles and truly value the relationships I am able to build across our customer base. Staying in touch with our customers allows me the opportunity to help the company to innovate and the deep relationships we develop with our users provide opportunities for the company to co-develop and refine new ideas.
Can you give us an overview of your business?
Historically, legacy technologies that were built to manage the risks associated with End User Computing were seen by companies in the banking, insurance and financial services sector as a purchase of ‘last resort’. Meaning, they sought out a EUC management solution only if they were faced with an ‘audit event’ that demanded clear and immediate action, (even if that solution didn’t fully fix the problem). The Apparity solution was designed to break with the past and bring to the market a technology that not only out-performed the legacy vendors across all the key areas of EUC control, but critically also provided business process automation and change management workflow that actually saved our customers time and money. As Philip Howard of Bloor Research succinctly put it, “From a vendor perspective, what we are now starting to see in this market is “second mover advantage” with newer entrants to the market – such as Apparity – adopting innovative and (more) modern technologies.” Bloor Research May 2017
In brief, the Apparity solution is a single, fully integrated enterprise class application designed to securely control, monitor, and automate all the key events that occur in the life-cycle of any mission critical end user developed application such as spreadsheets, databases, scripts, and robots. Apparity is designed to never interfere with either the end user experience or the application content but rather track and maintain a complete inventory of all EUC’s and provide a seamless and 100% accurate set of access, version and change management controls. These capabilities and the accumulated data generated over time allow an organization to intelligently optimize its end user computing driven processes and provide managers with reports and alerts that identify and predict changes in EUC risk profiles before it has a chance to impact the company’s operations.
For our customers, the ability for a technology company to effectively manage their end user computing risk and also to play its part in their digital transformation initiatives is seen as a critical component in their vendor selection process.
Tell us how you are funded.
Apparity was bootstrapped through it’s first couple of years. We developed a beta product by convincing a couple of very large firms that there was a better way to manage their spreadsheet users and spreadsheet based financial and accounting processes. Once we had those beta sites up and running we pitched the company to the Atlanta Technology Angels here in Georgia and rapidly secured Series A funding in early 2012. By November 2012 we had been acquired by the NetRoadshow group of companies. NetRoadshow had a long established relationship with every investment bank in the world and saw an opportunity to leverage the Apparity technology to further differentiate its solution offerings within the banking industry.
Why did you start the company? To solve what problems?
See answer #1
Who are your target customers? What’s your revenue model?
We provide subscription based EUC governance and control solutions to any highly regulated industry predominantly the banking, finance and insurance industry but also including utilities, retail and healthcare. Because the implementation services associated with deploying Apparity are not significant compared to legacy vendors, we see ourselves as primarily a software company. Moreover we see ourselves as a software company whose revenue and growth model is based on innovating in partnership with our customers. A couple of great examples would be the ‘In-Change’ process that we developed with the help of a UK Insurance company and the EUC file tracking concept that we worked with a US bank to develop.
The ‘In-Change’ process allows actuaries to effectively manage and control non-cosmetic change in complex spreadsheet based models ensuring accurate oversight and governance during critical month, quarter and year end close cycles.
The US bank we were talking to needed a solution that did not restrict its users to working in a narrowly prescribed set of shared folders. Users simply do not work that way. The solution we developed is capable of tracking all EUC’s and all the changes made to those EUC’s regardless of where they are saved, copied or named.
Both the InChange Process and EUC file tracking or ‘fingerprinting’ capability continue to be core differentiators and deal makers for the company.
If you had a magic wand, what one thing would you change in the banking and/or FinTech sector?
Great question and one that I do not have an immediate answer to. Why, because there is an inherent clash between the disruptive nature of FinTech and the conservative risk averse banking sector. IMO – this is how it should be. It is my experience that when done properly, engagement between FinTech companies and banks, will draw upon the creativity generated by these conflicting cultures and result in innovative, relevant and transformational solutions. So, perhaps no magic wand needed – just companies like Apparity with smart people challenged by culture and established process to build better systems.
What is your message for the larger players in the Finance industry?
Most of our sales cycles begin with the business and once we have established our worth – then the technology guys are brought into the conversation. Why is this? Well it’s largely because this is the way it’s always been done with very clear demarcation of roles and responsibilities. But as the finance industry increasingly embraces the principles of digital transformation and seeks to employ its efficiencies across the organization as a whole, CIO’s will need to proactively find ways to deconstruct the traditional barriers that separate business and IT. So my message would be to encourage CIO’s to experiment with that type of organizational change and to truly see just how powerful this kind of change can be – to think about doing that in partnership with a FinTech company.
What phone are you carrying and why?
This question made me smile – I use an android phone. Why, because it’s better technology!
Where do you get your industry news from?
I don’t have an established source for industry related news and I am instinctively averse to relying on just one or two regular publications for market knowledge and trends. When I want to understand an issue or an opportunity in depth I will read / watch whatever I consider important and relevant – and then decide.
Can you list 3 people you rate from the FinTech sector that we should be following on Twitter?
Sorry, no, I don’t follow twitter.
Can you suggest the name of an Angel Investor or VC that might be interested in being profiled?
You should talk to Atlanta Technology Angels, (ATA)
What’s the best FinTech product or service you’ve seen recently?
The company that immediately springs to mind is Kensho, www.kensho.com. They are all about using AI to first understand the inherent dynamics of a problem and then focus on the solution.
Finally, let’s talk predictions. What trends do you think are going to define the next few years in the FinTech sector?
I think technology that continues to disrupt established business models particularly in the Insurance industry will do well, companies such as Trov, Guevara and Lemonade would be good examples. However I think the dominant trend over the next few years has to be the adoption of ‘smart’ automation solutions that simply drive down the cost of doing business.
Our thanks to Gavin for taking the time to answer our questions. For more information on Apparity please visit www.apparity.com
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